The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas #BookReview

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Sam Holloway has survived the worst that life can throw at you. But he’s not really living. His meticulous routines keep everything nice and safe – with just one exception . . .

Three nights a week, Sam dons his superhero costume and patrols the streets. It makes him feel invincible – but his unlikely heroics are getting him into some sticky situations.

Then a girl comes along and starts to shatter the walls Sam has built around himself. Now, he needs to decide if he’s brave enough to take off the mask, and to confront the grief he’s been avoiding for so long . . .

Hilarious and heart-warming, this is a story about grief, loneliness, and the life-changing power of kindness.

amazon uk amazon com

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Sam is 26, lives in his immaculately clean house, has 2 equally geeky friends and he works in the factory of a Japanase wholesaler where he’s a model employee. At night he’s roaming the streets (in a ridiculous costume) and although his actions are limited to helping elderly ladies with their shopping or bringing lost dogs back home, he feels good with these little helpful acts. Good people doing good deeds definitely applies to Sam.. but when he falls in love, everything is jeopardized and in danger of falling apart, including the safe, simple life he carefully built up. It all starts to unravel and while he is used to coping on his own, he might need some help to deal with the setbacks he comes across. Sometimes help does come from the people you least expect it from. One of the people reaching out and helping him was definitely a surprise but I cheered when I realised he was actually getting help from someone in his corner!

It took me a while to get into this novel but Sam did grow on me as the story developed and in the end I genuinly cared and I wanted him to overcome the past. The episodes of ‘The Phantasm’ were at first quirky and funny – as a parody on old heroes like batman –  but behind Sam as the masked man lies a tragedy slowly revealing itself as the story progressed. There was a shift at a certain moment from which point I started to understand more clearly why he felt like he needed this alter ago. The general hilarity of it all changed everything with the new insights. His background and the trauma which he dealt with on his own definitely shed a different light on his actions. There’s a reason why he feels best when he’s in character and why he simply can’t hang up his costume, even after he hears his love interest say she thinks The Phantasm is ridiculous, and it was sad and I felt heavy-hearted hearing what life had thrown at him.

There was a good mix of laughter and pain in this novel. His backstory was very tragic, well thought-out and the best part of the novel for me. Unfortunately that’s also probably what I will remember in a few month’s time and the first part of the novel won’t hang in my head as long.. it was so cartoonish at times that I had a hard time imagining this character could be a real person. So to end I’d say I liked it, but didn’t love it. A commendable debut and if you have a bit more fantasy than me, you might love it.

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Wildfire in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

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The perfect summer read: In Search Of Us by Ava Dellaira #BookReview @avadellaira @HotKeyBooks @imosebba

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Because the missing pieces always matter . . .

Marilyn is in search of freedom. She grew up as a child actor, her mother’s meal ticket out of mediocrity. But it’s been a long time since she booked a job, and she and her mother have no choice but to move in with her volatile uncle.

Marilyn is counting down the days until she can escape to college, and the promise of her own future. That is, until she falls in love with James, the boy downstairs, who shows her that her life is worth living in the present. At 17, Marilyn is about to learn that everything can change in an instant.

Angie is in search of answers. She is mixed race and has never met her father, but she knows she looks and thinks a lot like him. Though Angie grew up with her devoted mother, Marilyn, she’s always felt the absence of the man she never knew.

But after discovering that her mother has been lying to her, Angie sets off on a road trip to Los Angeles, in search of an unknown uncle – and maybe even her dad. At 17, she hopes to finally find out the truth about where she came from so she can discover who she truly is.

Told from the perspective of these two young women, Marilyn’s in the late 90s, and Angie’s today, IN SEARCH OF US is a sweeping inter-generational story about mothers and daughters, love and loss, holding on and letting go.

amazon uk amazon com

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This is just one of those books that really fill your heart and makes you sad and smile and it’s all happening at the same time you know. There’s a mystery and a love story at the base of this novel. They’ll meet in the proverbially perfect and heart-shattering middle.

The novel switches between Angie wanting to know more about her father and trying to find out if  he’s dead or alive, and how it all started with her father and Marilyn, Angie’s mother. I loved seeing the romance between Marilyn and James develop and how she was welcomed into his warm family. You know that they’re not together any more and Marilyn still can’t think of him without tearing up so I was prepared for something terrible to happen but when I came to that part of the novel the impact was still bigger than I anticipated. I knew it was coming, couldn’t avoid it try as I might, and still was quite in shock.

Both plotlines, Angie’s search in the present and Marilyn’s encounter with James, at the same age but 17 years earlier, were very engrossing and it was actually fun and engrossing to read this dual timeline. Angie might have started out alone in her desire for answers but as the story progressed and the connection between Marilyn and James became bigger, we both ended up longing to know and even I hoped he was still alive.

But even if 16 year-old Angie had all my sympathy and understanding and I adored Dellaira’s skilled writing that made her turn to her favorite songs whenever she felt the need in time of worries and trouble, I loved her mother Marilyn in her younger version most of all. She’s such a good person and the attraction and romance with James was nothing other than perfect. They have such a sweet connection, I was already dreading the moment it would end. They seemed so right for each other so I couldn’t wrap my head around it, until I actually read the words.

In Search Of Us was such a lovely novel with beautiful people (the only exception being Uncle Woody who grudgingly shares his house with Marilyn and her mother), lots of cool 90’s music references  and a whole lot of love. This novel is going to steal your heart, just like it did mine :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Goodreads Monday (May 2018)

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I saw this meme on Books, Vertigo and Tea and I thought this one seemed fun to join and feature on my blog from time to time as well! The original post of Goodreads Monday was posted by Lauren’s Page Turners. Thank you Lauren for this great idea. This really is a great way to help me take another look at all the books added to the wishlist so long ago and at the same time I can share some interesting titles.

There’s only one rule: Simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to link back to Lauren’s Page turners and add your own links!

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Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino

I shelved this on 12 September 2016 on Goodreads. I just realised this novel has a staggering 4.15 rating on Goodreads (and a 4.6 rating or 75% 5 stars on Amazon) so it’s worth bumping it up my list.

Swear on this life

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

So what do you think, yay or nay? Have you read it or is it on your readlist too?

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton #BookReview

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Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road.

She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.

But what is she supposed do now?

Lily has no option but to follow her body and sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .

amazon uk amazon com

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star three and a half

It must be karma because while I was finishing this novel, something very sad happened to someone at work. One day he’s there, the next he’s not.. gone in the blink of an eye, much like Lily in this novel.

I’m not one to believe in an afterlife or staying around on earth (although I did really love the movie Ghost) but I actually found some comfort in the story as I imagined my colleague following everyone around and still being near. Sometimes you just find it in unexpected places when you need it. If you are struggling with feelings of grief, having difficulties letting a loved one go, then this is a nice novel to lose yourself into and draw some strength and positive thoughts from in the end.

Sunflowers in February touches subjects as spirituality and life after death but all in a charmingly funny way. It’s a book about trying to hold on – and Lily is quite literally holding on to her old life by claiming her brother’s body – but also about letting go. I had some problems with Lily’s selfish choice to take what wasn’t hers and putting her brother in her own shoes. She also didn’t make much of an effort either acting like a boy. Imagine your brother squeeling over a pair of shoes, ahum. So sometimes she did irritate me a little bit and I thought I would do better (not that I’ve ever tried mind). If it was an effort at being hilariously funny then it was maybe somewhat cheeky and humourous but not in a laughing out loud kind of way but I felt the story didn’t need it really or it was perhaps not something I was looking for in that moment so that’s probably why I also liked the story more towards the ending. In the final part she’s more reflective and appreciative of everybody and you can feel the warmth of her family and her friends even though they don’t know she’s there.

Overall, this was a light and humurous read which started out from a horrific situation but was beautifully turned around and left me with a heart-warming and satisfying feeling.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

180 Seconds by Jessica Park #BookReview

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Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

amazon uk amazon com

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Who knew that 180 seconds of staring into Esben’s eyes could turn Allison’s life around so much? I know how it sounds and what happened in those 3 minutes of silence is hard to explain but the author made it an extremely loaded moment and was able to describe it with lots of feeling. I think this book pretty much falls or stands with this scene because it has to be believeable that they connect in that moment and I did feel it in the beautiful way it was written. Those 180 seconds with all of Allison’s thoughts and emotions swirling around and the description of that connection, of him really seeing behind her walls, was amazing to see.

Allison has always been guarded and has done everything to protect her heart, never letting anyone in behind those high walls and I couldn’t have been happier to see that Esben really sees through her.. isn’t it what we all ultimately want, being understood and able to be ourself and still be loved? It was so easy to root for Allison.

This novel is so heart-warming and has such a great cast of characters. I loved Allison’s father Simon, her best friend Steffi and Esben’s sister Kerry. There’s a background story that is really moving for each of them and made me like them even more. And Esben, oh Esben is one of those perfect book boyfriends. He’s doing so much good in the world, showing random acts of kindness via the videos he uploads. He’s so thoughtful and caring and everything a girl would want.

But then.. my poor heart! I didn’t expect it to happen AT ALL but reading this novel made me feel as if my heart was going to explode. Their attraction and development of the love story was so sweet and beautiful and gave me such a high but then a cruel, cruel author (just kidding) took my blissful feeling and turned me in an almost blubbering mess. Yes there were actual tears and believe me when I tell you that doesn’t happen very often. 180 Seconds got me all emotional though and it’ll be added to my shortlist of books that make me cry. This was a story of enormous personal growth, it was moving and touching, with enough sadness and love to get me through the next few months of reading.

180 Seconds is the first novel I read by Jessica Park and it certainly won’t be the last. She definitely scored in my books!

This novel was included in the Bookworm Box of May 2017.

 

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover #BookReview

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What’s it about?

Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. Combining a captivating romance with a cast of all-too-human characters, It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.

 amazon uk amazon com

Review

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Colleen Hoover was, is and always will be one of my favorite authors. I don’t know how she does it but she delivers the most heartfelt stories E-V-E-R-Y SINGLE TIME. One of the many many reasons why she’s so successful I think is that she makes her characters always so honest. I love that about her books. It feels like you see their true selves, their soul in what they say. The characters just worm their way into your heart in no time. She already tied in ‘sweet and sour’ moments in her earlier novels which were picked up by many readers afterwards (it means you share your best and worst moment of the day). In It Ends With Us Lily and Ryle have their moments of ‘Naked Truths’ where they are telling it to each other just like it is, the raw truth, without any filter, and well it just works, they delve deep in their inner selves and that in turn touched me.

Lily was such a realistic character and Colleen made me really see and understand that nothing is only a black and white situation, that you’re often in one of love and hate at the same time. She paints a realistic picture of how it’s like to live with someone you love dearly and where you have so many good moments with but then those 15 bad seconds can destroy the image you had from your father forever. It still haunts Lily to this day, when it’s not even an issue anymore, but you carry it with you of course for the rest of your life…

Colleen brilliantly inserted the sensitive subject of domestic abuse into the storyline. But above all the story is still – as always – even more about love and the lengths we go for it. It is such an emotional story that made ME cry because Lily was embedded so deeply into my heart.

It Ends With Us… four little words that hold so much power in them once you’ve read the novel.. I knew it was going to be meaningful and deep in advance but she really got to me.

I’m convinced this is a story that really only Colleen Hoover can tell in such a perfect way. It’s such an amazing and profound novel, I could re-read it right away! If you haven’t read any novel by Colleen Hoover yet, this is a perfect one to start with!

Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.

I’m the proud owner of a paperback copy which I paid full price. This is my honest opinion.

Exposure by Tracy Ewens #BookReview

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What’s it about?

If only life were as simple as smiling for the camera.

After years of braving the Arctic’s frigid temperatures or endless hours tracking the Spirit Bear to capture the perfect shot for National Geographic, Meg Jeffries decides to move back to the city—San Francisco. She wants a life with more stability. The kind that lets her see her family more than once a year and comes with owning a toaster or a full-sized tube of toothpaste. But creating her new “ normal” is not without its obstacles. Meg is confident and successful behind a camera. A little extra publicity can’t change that… until it does.

Westin Drake is famous for fast cars and box office sales. Yet he’s a terrible driver and secretly hopes his fifteen minutes is almost up. West moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco, looking for some substance and time near his family. But now that the buzz of his next film, Full Throttle – Floor It, is hitting maximum fervor, West keeps everyone at arm’s length so he can protect the people he loves… until he can’t.

When the public mistakes a simple kiss on the cheek for a budding romance, Meg and West are caught in a media frenzy. Somewhere amid the backseat getaways and plastered smiles, Meg discovers the man behind the glossy photographs, and West wonders how he’ll ever let her go once the cameras stop rolling. Love is never simple, especially when the world’s watching. How much are two people willing to expose for a chance at a true happily ever after?

amazon uk amazon com

Review

star three and a half

Throw two opposites together and you get.. a very enticing story. The people in this story are two sides of a coin, she is used to being free, alone, breathing in fresh air, he is used to the flash of the cameras wherever he is. Can you see the hurdle there? OK I could spot it a mile away but what’s life (in books) without a little drama, too damn easy I’d say. So I’m not complaining that there were maybe-probably-definitely some big choices to be made here. I was very curious to see how their interest in each other was going to develop… would they give love a chance when it would also imply that one of them had to make a life-changing choice. Were they going to make it? I wouldn’t bet any money on it when I started to read this anyway but you never know…

Meg has led the most interesting life looking through her camera lens, capturing the most amazing wildlife in faraway countries. Reading about her encounters with bears etc made me just dream away. West is an A-list actor and in a few months he’ll shoot movie number 5 of the Full Throttle series. He’s more than a pretty face though even if nobody is interested in that.

She’s been living her life in her own little bubble so Meg doesn’t know who he is when she meets him at the Climate Wellness Symposium where she’s the key speaker and he has to introduce her. They hit it off right away and they’ll be seeing each other a lot more when they make a business deal for the presentation of more climate awareness projects together. They start to really like each other’s company but is there really a future for them ahead when they lead so very different lives?

She: Do I look polished? (..) He: No. (…) She: What image do I project then?

Spring, he thought, or the rich colors of the hills afer a deep all-dry rain. She looked alive and somehow despite her work, she didn’t notice the world could be a dreary place. 

Probably best to keep that to himself.

She’s like a breath of fresh air for him and I can totally see the appeal of this strong and independent woman. He – I like to think he reminds me of Paul Walker – is a good guy who has an eye for detail and appreciates the art in the city. Yes he’s a celebrity and has bodyguards and all that but he comes from a normal family and maintaining a level of normality and looking after his family still mean everything to him.

This was an enjoyable and sweet romance but I didn’t have any heart-melting moments like I always have with my number one author. It was great to see them bond at one moment over the fact that they’re both the youngest of the family. There were definitely some highlights in the story and I really liked that they found redeeming qualities in each other and it wasn’t just a flash of physical attraction, but I still wasn’t swooned by their story like I wanted. I think it was a good read overall but it isn’t a really memorable one for me.

This novel was included in my one-month subscription Bookworm box (May edition) and this is my honest opinion.